The call to the priesthood is made up of a continuous moment that unfolds in God’s providence. Like Mary’s Fiat, my call to the priesthood is made up of many little “yeses” along the journey deeper and deeper into conformity with Jesus, the Great High Priest. This call to the priesthood was a process of awakening to the voice of Our Heavenly Father inviting me into a unique mission as His priest.
It all started back in Kindergarten when we were asked on video what we wanted to become when we grew up – I said I want to be a priest! With any vocation, the seed needs a good environment and soil to grow. My parents were integral in communicating God’s infinite love for me! My mother is a wonderful Italian cook, so we would often have priests over for pasta, and she would suggest, without subtlety, how it would be such a grace if one of her boys would become a priest! I pretended I was disinterested, but I knew deep down that the seed of priesthood was sown.
As time went on, I was inspired to pursue medicine; since I was 11 years old, my family and I traveled abroad to serve the poor. My parents, Dr. Peter and LuLu Daly founded the Holy Family Surgery Center at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Honduras. It was there that I encountered Jesus’ real presence in the poor. I was deeply moved to serve Jesus in the poor with my hands through medicine. However, after being captivated by Jesus in the Eucharist on a Steubenville conference, I soon realized that before I can reach out my hands to serve, Jesus thirsted for my heart to love. As Mother Teresa said, “Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying ‘I Thirst’ in the hearts of the poor.” It was a great challenge to integrate my encounters with Jesus in the poor and Jesus in the Eucharist in my daily life. Moreover, the quiet call to the priesthood seemed to be the best way to share this joy of the poor with all the persons I would meet.
As high school progressed, I played football, hockey, and lacrosse but also found myself going to Mass during lunch and spending more time in the chapel at Saint Thomas Academy. Then after my first year at Notre Dame, I spent a summer in Kolkata, India working with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) at Kalighat, the home for the dying. As I prayed with the MC Sisters every day and served Jesus in distressing disguise, my desire to become a physician was tested. I began to feel more peace and joy with the call to serve Jesus as a priest rather than a doctor. I continued with the pre-med track but I would find that Jesus desired not only physical but also spiritual healing of souls; a type of healing only a priest can give.
In the middle of the application process to medical school, I attended a Fellowship of Catholic University Students – FOCUS conference in Florida. It was during the sacrament of confession on New Year’s Eve that the priest said, “Son, deep down you know who Jesus is inviting you to be. Do not be afraid, my son.” Something in me was unlocked and I was free – free from self and free for Jesus! As DH Lawrence once said, “You can do something with an idea, but an experience does something with you.” The priesthood is not some idea we choose but an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who invites us to be transformed into himself! I knew Jesus wanted me to be a priest, but it took time for me to surrender and give God permission to do with me as He wills. I had to detach from my dream of a big family and practicing medicine in the missions – because I needed to first seek the Kingdom!
As you can see, the moment I was called to become a priest developed and grew as God revealed my heart’s desire for Him. “Our hearts are restless,” says St. Augustine, “until they rest in God.” May we persevere in giving everything to Jesus and remember we are simply workers, not master builders. May we, like Mary, always and everywhere respond “YES!” to God with fidelity and freedom. “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from him as your reward” (Col. 3:23-24).
The Saint Paul Seminary is 1 of 17 Collective Ministries served each year by the CSAF. Click here to visit their webpage on the CSAF’s website – http://www.csafspm.org/whom-you-help/the-saint-paul-seminary